1998 - 2005
In July of 1998, Joann took a trip to a local shelter with her daughter to adopt a puppy. Little did she know that 18 week old Bailey would change their lives!
This 'shy' Australian Shepherd mix was so scared he would not come out of his cage and had to be pulled from the cage by a volunteer. The volunteer assured her that the pup just needed a loving home and attention and he would be just fine.
Early in Bailey's life, Joann enrolled him in a puppy class offered by the shelter and things seemed to be going very well. The trainer told her she had a knack for good timing and training so she began to apprentice with the trainer to learn about teaching obedience.
By the tender age of 8 months, Bailey was displaying some very disturbing behaviors: resource guarding, fear aggression, redirected aggression, territorial aggression and inter-dog aggression. Trying her best to 'train' him not to do these disturbing behaviors, Joann was advised by her mentor to 'show him who's boss' - be his 'pack leader' and be tougher and tougher on him. His behavior issues began to escalate and before he was 2, Joann seriously considered euthanasia as the only option for this troubled aussie mix.
In 2001 Joann attended her first Patricia McConnell seminar. In this seminar she began to learn the true nature of positive reinforcement training - (it's not just a cookie at the end or NOT punishing). The impact of traditional training methods and the alpha-dog theory became more and more clear to her. She began to truly understand that a lack of ANY response is not the answer but that true behavior modificiation MUST address the underlying motivation for the behavior. This meant that Bailey's fear and his early life BEFORE Joann adopted him were driving his behavior.
Utilizing McConnell's "Cautious Canine" methods and techniques from Dr. Karen Overall, Joann slowly began the change in her relationship with Bailey and ultimately, Bailey's behavior.
Bailey is a classic example of an unplanned or poorly planned breeding with little to no consideration of the genetic weaknesses of his parents or the tools necessary to properly raise a litter. While his genetics greatly influenced his behavior, his early environment from birth to 18 weeks coupled with his poor genetics created immense behavioral challenges. It turned out he needed much, much more than just a loving home.
In addition to McConnell & Overall, information from other behavioral scientists such as Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson and Dr. Pamela Reid has been invaluable in refining her interactions with every dog she meets and teaching skills to others with behaviorally challenged dogs.
For many, the challenges of companionship with a troubled pet can lead to a journey of greater knowledge and may result in them becoming well versed in animal behavior and a great dog trainer. For others, it is not so. Most people don't choose a pet so that they can change careers, become an expert dog trainer or behavioral consultant. They acquired a pet to have a nice, happy, well-adjusted companion.
Knowingly or unknowingly buying or adopting with the assumption that the animal will turn around with a loving home can be heartbreaking, expensive and ultimately devastating. Unfortunately, there are thousands upon thousands of Bailey's in the world -- some end up successful in their homes and some do not.
If you would like help in how to choose a shelter, rescue dog or a responsible, reputable breeder to reduce the chances that you will end up with a dog with behavioral problems, visit our eBooks section for publications that can help guide you.